E1 visas are renewable, two-year visas given to representatives of foreign companies dealing in international trade. These visas are necessary for the representatives to do business in the U.S. While requirements are very specific, holders of this visa and their families enjoy many privileges not found in other types of visas.
An E1 visa, known as a treaty trader visa, allows foreign nationals of specified nations to come to the U.S. and engage in the trade of goods and services. The individual must be a national of one of about 50 nations that have signed a treaty of commerce and navigation and must come to the U.S. to partake in substantial trade, demonstrated by a large and continuous volume, between the U.S. and his country.
In order to qualify for the E1 treaty trader visa, the applicant must be citizen of a treaty nation and have an executive or managerial level position in a company engaged in international trade. The company must be at least 50 percent owned by the applicant or by other nationals of the treaty nation. This is to ensure that the company has the nationality of a treaty nation. Immediate family members of an E1 visa holder may also qualify for the visa.
With an E1 visa, individuals are given absolute freedom to travel into, out of and within the United States as much as they wish. Holders can work in the United States for U.S. companies that trade with their treaty country, as long as that trade makes up at least 50 percent of the company’s business. They may study at universities in the U.S., so long as it does not become their primary interest. There is no limit to how many times the visa may be renewed.
E1 visa holders also have the right to bring their families into the United States. Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age are welcomed and allowed many of the same privileges as the E1 visa holder. Spouses may work in the U.S. after receiving work authorization. Both spouses and children may study at any school or university without having to apply for a student visa.
While the E1 visa allows more freedom than many other types of visas, holders of this visa are still limited in some respects. Most notably, they are only allowed to work for the company that sponsored their visa. While E1 visa holders may study at universities in the U.S., they are not permitted to enroll in full-time programs, as that would become their primary interest in the U.S. Also, the visa only lasts for two years, meaning holders will have to go through the renewal process fairly often.